Archive for the ‘Frugal Homemaking’ Category

We have a small house, under 950 square feet, built in the 1940’s, with 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. It’s cozy, but it fits for us. After posting the crazy “before” dining room pictures, I got a request to see our bathroom and kitchen. They stay reasonably neat, especially in comparison to the dining room, but neither would win any House Beautiful contests.

Today you can take a look at our bathroom. I need to scrub the corner of the shower and the scuff marks on the wall near the toilet, but it’s overall fairly tidy.

My shampoo and conditioner are in the corner of the tub. I use Giovanni Smooth as Silk and love, love it. I bought a small container for full price early last year, loved the results, and did a little happy dance in the aisle when I found these bigger containers at Marshalls for 1/3 of the regular price per ounce. I bought two shampoos and one conditioner, and I’m still on the first shampoo, so it should last awhile. I don’t see myself paying full price for it when it runs out, though, so I’m stretching it.

I see that there is a red bath toy behind the toilet in this picture; it’s back in the toy basket, which lives in the tub between baths. My mother-in-law is disabled, so we have the bar for her. We definitely need to repaint in here, including putting putty over the old TP roll holder in the wall. The door doesn’t quite reach the bottom of the floor for reasons I don’t quite understand, so when I’m in the bathtub, I’ll sometimes hear kids outside and see little hands poking in from underneath!

I wash the sink and toilet most nights while the kids take their baths, because I have a new-to-the-potty boy whose aim needs work, and two very exuberant hand washers!

The medicine cabinet. Top row: my make-up brushes and make-up, and the unexpected multi-tasker: Monistat anti-chafing gel, which I use as make-up primer. It sounds crazy, but the ladies over at Make-Up Alley rave about it and it is SO much cheaper than the stuff I used before (Smashbox, before frugal). If you have an FSA, you can even buy it with pre-tax money.

Middle row: Q-tips with my tweezers on top, Chagrin Valley Dead Sea Spa facial soap (no coupons – I pay full price because I love that stuff!), floss, band-aids, and eyelash curler.

Bottom shelf: sunscreen, eye make-up remover, Mr. Penny’s deodorant, my deodorant, various face creams that I never actually use (I got the top one as a sample, some Olay wrinkle thing, and the bottom one with a coupon-sale combo; I don’t use them so I should probably toss them), Cetaphil moisturizer from Costco that I’ve been using a full 5 years. Does that stuff expire? It’s probably time to replace it, even though there is 1/3 of the jar left. And I see in the picture that I need to clean the line on the bottom!

I’ll post pictures of my kitchen next week. In the meantime, this is the project I’m working on:

The crazy messy entry cabinet. I cleared it out yesterday and am sorting through the piles of junk. It’s empty and almost nothing belongs there, so I’m working to find homes for a lot of this stuff, and sorting papers. I’ll  post the “after” picture with the kitchen next week.

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February was the Month of the Dining Room in my home. I completely remade what was an unusably clutter-full room into a cheerful space where my family can sit and enjoy meals, play games, and be together. The 28 Day Challenge was just the nudge I needed to really get it done, and I love love LOVE the results!

The color palette inspiration came from this stained glass, which we’ve for years but had but never hung:

and these napkins, which I made in sewing class last semester:

I love the aqua, red, black and white together, so I planned the room around it. Here it is:

The Picture Wall

The Bookshelf Wall

The price tag? Just $162.31, and four kid-free days, thanks to my husband and mother-in-law. Where the money went:

  • $75.00 – Six chairs to match the table, bought second-hand from Craigslist
  • $17.02 – paint primer (paint was free from a mystery shop)
  • $34.32 – Two silk shantung curtains from St. Vincent de Paul thrift store and a hanging rod (I negotiated down from $50, which is a steal for silk curtains!)
  • $26 – lighting fixture to replace the broken overhead light/fan (in transit; UPS shows it in the Mid-West still)
  • $7.88 – printing photos to put in frames that I already owned; photos are from Flickr’s Creative Commons, and I took them to Target to print out
  • $2.09 – hooks to hang stained glass that I already owned

What I already had or got free:

  • Bookshelf moved in from my another room.
  • Stained glass art piece (and WHY didn’t I hang it sooner? Gorgeous, right?)
  • Black frames, which have been sitting new in their box for more than a year at the back corner of the dining room!
  • Table cloth, from our wedding
  • Pampered Chef large bowl, freebie from when I was a consultant
  • Paint, free from a mystery shop
  • Plant, free from a mystery shop

Let me remind you what it looked like before.

Ridiculous!! Garbage on the floor, Christmas tree at the back of the table at the beginning of February, piles and piles and PILES of stuff. I am not proud of this, but we all start somewhere, some of us farther than down others. It was a hovel, to be sure. I’ve done a lot of introspection this month, trying to figure out not just where to put things away to make it a usable, pleasant space, but why and how I let it get to its truly horrendous state in the first place.

You can follow my progress by visiting the following links:
Improvement in the Dining Room! (February 10)
Even More Improvement in the Dining Room! (February 14)
Guess What I Did Today? (February 20)

Org Junkie, the host of the 28 Day Challenge, has posed the following questions for people participating in the challenge:

1. What was the hardest part of the challenge for you and were you able to overcome it?

The hardest part for sure was just starting. Tackling the room as a whole was so overwhelming! The fear of how hard it would be to let go of the stuff held me back from even starting, but once I got started, it was not nearly as hard as I’d imagined. In fact, I was excited at the end of the day – and it only took one day to sort almost all of the stuff! – I felt really good about how much garbage I’d pulled out. There were a few things that were tough to let go of, but I had the idea in my mind that I wanted the clear space more than I wanted things just in case. If I needed something I had been keeping just in case, I wouldn’t have been able to find it anyway!

I spent many, many hours sorting and purging, shredding and filing, though there were distractions. Having the kids out of the house for four whole days (!!) made all the difference in actually getting it done.

2. Tell us what kind of changes/habits you have put into place in order for your area/room to maintain its new order?

I pulled everything out of the room that didn’t belong, and now there is so little stuff that it’s easy to maintain. After every meal (now eaten at the table!) I clear the dishes and wipe off crumbs. I sweep every day. Nothing stays on the table or floor overnight, and I have kept it up for more than 2 weeks.

3. What did you do with the “stuff” you were able to purge out of your newly organized space?

I was ruthless! I had SO MUCH STUFF, and almost none of it belonged in a dining room! Most of it ended up being recycled or tossed, or boxed up to sell.  I didn’t keep much in this room except for the books, and even then I took three full boxes to the used book store to sell. The other three boxes of stuff to sell are boxed up and ready; some have been listed on Craigslist already. The bulk of it was garbage and recycling, with a few boxes of stuff that I donated.

Of the stuff in the original picture, I would estimate that less than 10% ended up staying in our home – the table, the lamp, Christmas ornaments (finally put away!) and books you can’t even see in the original picture are just about it. I have no regrets for any of the stuff that is gone now.

4. What creative storage solutions were you able to introduce in order to create additional space as well as establish some limits and boundaries?
The bookshelf on the wall is the single storage solution in the room. Having a place for the books, and having them organized by category – cookbooks with cookbooks, novels with novels, etc. – makes it easy to find the book I want. I went two deep with a few categories.

Two of the bottom squares hold my sewing supplies. One has a basket with my iron, foot pedal and cords, and a pull-out container for all the small pieces I need, like bobbins, thread, scissors, etc. My sewing machine and a plastic bin that contains just my current project are in the other square, with a reversible ironing mat/self healing cutting pad slid in next to it. When I’m ready to quilt, I can now pull out the one basket, one plastic bin, and my sewing machine, and I’ve got everything ready to go. When I’m done, it’s easy to put away.

I also particularly like this square, with my clock CD player/radio, CD binder (goodbye, bulky cases!), and pretty cloth napkins. I had the shelf divider, bought for but never used in the kitchen, and it’s just the right size to divide the shelf and leave space for the CD binder. The cards on the side are conversation starters to inspire family dialog during our meals.

And perhaps most surprising is the fact that I still have an empty square! I’m leaving it empty on purpose; I’ve had a really hard time with leaving empty spaces, feeling like every space needs a thing, and I’m trying to reroute that thought process. Empty space is a good thing.And that one square holds all of the magazines I kept. If it didn’t fit in that square, off it went to the donate pile. You would not believe the amount of magazines in that room on February 1!

5. Why do you think you should win this challenge?

Let me show you the before and after pics again and let them speak 1,000 words:

And then I’ll petition on my behalf. I worked really darn hard on this! It’s not just the drastic before and after photos, from a could-be-on-TV’s -Hoarders room to a pretty, functional space. I got down to the hard business of unlayering the crap, sorting through not just boxes but feelings. I posted in the comments on February 11:

I’m sorting through more boxes and really questioning why I kept most of this stuff. What am I getting out of having it? I am being pretty ruthless and tossing most of it. It isn’t bringing me joy; in fact, most of it is keeping me from fully enjoying my home.

I’m angry at myself for letting it get so bad. This is not how I want to live in my home, and not how I want my kids to grow up.

Walking in and having a clear table, and clear space under the table, is like a weight off my shoulders. I did a puzzle with my son yesterday, and we ate dinner at the table. Today, we did a cutting and pasting project, and after we cleaned it up, I wiped down the table, swept the floor, and cried, literally cried, because that’s NORMAL stuff families do, and my inability to let go of garbage, really, has held us back from doing that.

Last year, I did a serious purge of the kids’ room, and it has stayed organized and clean since then. They pull out toys, of course, but everything has a place to be put away and it’s easy for them to help keep it tidy. Why haven’t I done that in the rest of the house?

I hope that I’m making the mental shifts that I need to be able to keep it cleared out once I finish.

In the weeks since posting this, I’ve swept every single day. I’ve kept the table clean. I’ve washed the windows, hung art, organized the books on the shelves and my sewing things to make it a functional, beautiful space that I love to be in. The transformation is not just with the room, which is the most organized, pulled-together room I’ve ever lived in, but in myself.

If you’re new to my blog, poke around a bit and consider subscribing through RSS feed (top right corner of the blog) or e-mail (on the right bar under the search button) so you can see my March declutter challenge – the closets.


Like my transformation? Check out others at the 28 Day Organizing Challenge over at orgjunkie.com.

And I’m linking this post up all over the place, because I’m proud of my accomplishments and want to share with everyone! 🙂

DIY Showoff
Shop the House Sunday
Room A Month

Before and After Party
Metamorphosis Monday
Make It Monday
Make Your Monday
Just Something I Whipped Up
Motivate Me Monday
Made It Monday
Making The World Cuter
It’s So Very Creative
Made By You Monday

Toot Your Horn Tuesday
Trash to Treasure Tuesday
Tips Tuesday
2nd Time Around Tuesday
Talented Tuesday
Today’s Creative Blog
Tackle it Tuesday

Works for Me Wednesday
Power of Paint
Penny Pinching Party
Make It Yours Day

Show and Tell
Room To Inspire

Transformation Thursday
Thrift Store  Thursday
Thrifty Thursday
Show Off Your Stuff Party
Strut Your Stuff Thursday


Victory of the Week
Frugal Friday
Feature Yourself Friday
I’m a creative cat
Frugalicious Friday
Remodelaholics Anonymous
Show and Tell Friday

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Here’s a hint: the ugly mustard wall color

got a little blue.

Tomorrow I need to do the trim, touch ups, hall door, and the wall behind my desk. Can you believe that this is the same corner that I couldn’t even see a month ago?

Thanks to a mystery shop, the paint was free. Mr. Penny had the paint rollers, brushes, and paint trays in the abyss of the garage, so I didn’t have to pay a penny to get this fabulous aqua blue room, which feels so much lighter, brighter, and more cheerful. I can’t wait to get it completely finished and have some stunning before and after pics!

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Putting away $6,000 is a lofty goal for me. I’ve never been able to save that much, and it will take diligence and creativity to stretch each quarter as far as it will stretch and bring in extras to supplement the savings. I’ll be testing as many ideas for finding and earning extra money as I can, and documenting it along the way.  Here are a few of the ways I’m planning on saving, and what you can expect to find on the blog:

Scratch vs. Store Bought

In this weekly article, I’ll be determining whether it is more cost effective to make from scratch such items as condiments and convenience foods, household cleaners, and bath and beauty products, testing recipes and reporting the results.

Dialing for Dollars

Our service providers will be receiving a phone call to reduce rates for regular expenses, like auto insurance, phone service, and even the water company. I’ll post the outcomes of my negotiations, hopefully finding significant savings!

Menu Planning

Wasted food wastes money, and having a plan is the most effective way I have found to reduce food waste. I’ll be posting my low-cost menu plans each week.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Use it up, wear it out, make do, do without

Finding creative uses to keep things out of the landfill, keeping spending on new products mindful and to a minimum, and keeping our things in good working order will certainly keep money in our pockets. As I try new ways to use items up and do without, I’ll be sharing them with you.

No-Spend Days

Clearly eliminating all spending for a set period of time will save me money, but it may also help me to redefine and focus in on needs vs. wants, hopefully helping me to spend more mindfully when I do shop. My goal to start is 7 No-Spend Days each month.

Money Making from home

I’ll be exploring a number of options for making money at home, with a more detailed list of ideas tomorrow. Your suggestions for legitimate, legal ways to make money from home without upfront costs are welcome!

You’ll also find a monthly wrap-up to see what’s working and how well I’m doing at reaching my goal, tips for frugal home making, crafty goodness, and inexpensive activities, projects and products for the family.

Sound interesting? Subscribe now and don’t miss a thing, and post your comments with ideas, questions, or encouragement!

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